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Navy History Matters – December 8, 2020

Compiled by Brent Hunt, Naval History and Heritage Command’s Communication and Outreach Division

Welcome to Navy History Matters—our weekly compilation of articles, commentaries, and blogs related to history and heritage. Every week we’ll gather the top-interest items from a variety of media and social media sources and then link you to related content at NHHC’s website (history.navy.mil), your authoritative source for Navy history.

SECNAV Selects USS Congress as Name of Second Constellation Frigate

Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite recently announced that the second Constellation-class guided-missile frigate would be named USS Congress. The new frigate would be the seventh Navy ship named Congress. The first Congress was built in 1776 and fought on Lake Champlain during the American Revolution. It was run aground and burned after only a week of naval service. The second Congress was a 28-gun frigate built for the Continental Navy that did not last long either. It was burned in October 1777 to prevent Great Britain from capturing the ship. The third USS Congress was one of the six frigates authorized by the Naval Act of 1794. It participated in the Quasi War with France, the First Barbary War, and the War of 1812. For more, read the article in Seapower Magazine.

Pearl Harbor Ceremony Marking 79th Anniversary of Attack Closed to Public Amid Virus

On Dec. 7, 1941, Mickey Ganitch was getting ready to play a football game; instead, he spent the morning scanning the sky for Japanese planes as they rained bombs on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Ganitch and other veterans are prevented from attending the annual ceremony that honors those who were killed on the “day of infamy.” The 101-year-old Ganitch has attended most of the ceremonies since the mid-2000s, but this year is different. “That’s the way it goes. You got to ride with the tide,” Ganitch said in a telephone interview from his home in San Leandro, CA. Nearly eight decades ago, Ganitch’s USS Pennsylvania football team was scheduled to play USS Arizona’s team, but of course that never happened. As they usually did, players donned their uniforms on the ship because there was nowhere to change on the field. Ganitch had his football uniform on for the duration of the attack, as did other players. For more, read the article in Navy Times.

Annual Classic Set for Saturday

Are you ready for the big game? The annual Army Black Knights vs. the Navy Midshipmen football game is set for Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m. at West Point, NY. This will be the 121st meeting between the two teams, with Navy leading the series, 61–52–7. The first game against the cadets was played back in 1890, and Navy won 24–0. Last year, Navy beat Army 31–7. This year, the Navy squad will wear uniforms that celebrate the 175th birthday of the U.S. Naval Academy. The Army team honors the 25th Infantry Division of the Korean War. To view the scores of all the games played, go to NHHC’s Army-Navy game scores page. Go Navy! Beat Army!

Happy Birthday, National Guard

Sunday marks the 384th birthday of the U.S. National Guard. An order of the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s General Court in Salem established the first militia regiments in North America on Dec. 13, 1636. All able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. The National Guard still consists of citizen-Soldiers and Airmen who provide states with additional help during natural disasters and civil uprisings, as well as being available to deploy during a conflict. Happy birthday, National Guard!

Preble Hall Podcast

Visitors to the Naval Academy wouldn’t see the graffiti, but Midshipman Parker Ellis conducted a historical survey of graffiti at several sites for Professor Clementine Fujimura’s Cultural Anthropology class. In a recent naval history podcast from Preble Hall, they discuss the project and the significance of graffiti. In addition, the class of 1992’s great mule caper has been loaded. In 1991, the Naval Academy Class of 1992 stole West Point’s four mules prior to the Army–Navy Game, a feat never attempted before. In this episode, Stephen Phillips, class of 1992, interviews classmate Brett Odom about the Great Mule Caper. The Preble Hall podcast, conducted by personnel at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, MD, interviews historians, practitioners, military personnel, and other experts on a variety of naval history topics from ancient history to more current events.

Continental Congress Authorized First Ships

On Dec. 13, 1775, 245 years ago, the Continental Congress provided for the construction of five ships of 32 guns, five ships of 28 guns, and three ships of 24 guns at an estimated cost of $866,666. The ships were Hancock, Randolph, Raleigh, Warren, Washington, Congress, Effingham, Providence, Trumbull, Virginia, Boston, Delaware, and Montgomery. Over the course of the American Revolution, the Continental Navy sent to sea more than 50 armed vessels of various types. The navy’s squadrons and cruisers seized enemy supplies and carried correspondence and diplomats to Europe, returning with needed munitions. They took nearly 200 British vessels as prizes, some off the British Isles themselves, contributing to the demoralization of the enemy and forcing the British to divert warships to protect convoys and trade routes. In addition, the navy provoked diplomatic crises that helped bring France into the war against Great Britain. For more on the origins of the Navy, go to NHHC’s website.

Webpage of the Week

This week’s webpage of the week is new to NHHC’s notable ships pages. USS Triton was commissioned on Nov. 10, 1959, in Groton, CT, with Capt. Edward L. Beach in command. On her maiden cruise, the submarine departed on Feb. 15, 1960, bound for the South Atlantic and arriving in the Middle Atlantic off St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks on Feb. 24. Remaining submerged, Triton departed from her position, continued south toward Cape Horn, rounded the tip of South America, and then travelled west across the Pacific. After passing through the Philippine and Indonesian archipelagoes and crossing the Indian Ocean, she rounded the Cape of Good Hope and arrived off St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks—the starting point of the historic journey—on April 10, 60 days and 21 hours after departing the landmark. Triton arrived back at Groton on May 10, completing the first submerged circumnavigation of the Earth. For more, check out the page today. It includes a short history, suggested reading, video footage, and selected imagery.

Today in Naval History

On Dec. 8, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation to create the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps of the Department of the Navy. The law established active-duty attorneys as a distinct professional group—similar to physicians and chaplains—and it ushered in a new era of legal administration within the Navy. Today, the JAG directs a worldwide organization of 1,370 active and reserve component judge advocates, 670 active and reserve component enlisted, and approximately 370 civilian personnel. The JAG provides legal and policy advice to the Secretary of the Navy in all legal matters concerning military justice, administrative law, environmental law, ethics, claims, admiralty, operational and international law, litigation, and legal assistance. 

For more dates in naval history, including your selected span of dates, see Year at a Glance at NHHC’s website. Be sure to check this page regularly, as content is updated frequently.

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